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Video Game / Paper Mario

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(For the first game in the series, see here)

Paper Mario is a Role-Playing Game Spin-Off series of Super Mario Bros. developed by Intelligent Systems (who also developed the Nintendo Wars series and Fire Emblem series) following the general idea of Super Mario RPG (its working title was Super Mario RPG 2), but with an art-style where everyone is as thin and two-dimensional as paper (hence the name). The original game debuted on the Nintendo 64, and it was one of only ten games released for the systemnote  in 2001, a year that saw twice as many GameCube games released despite that system not debuting until November.

The game and its sequel on the GameCube, Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, stand out among RPGs in a number of ways.


First of all, they break up the static turn-based encounters of many Eastern RPGs with Action Commands and the ability to hit enemies (which exist on the screen before the battle starts and are attacked in a manner similar to EarthBound) on the field for a "First Strike". The sequel took it even further by putting battles onto a theater stage, complete with audience and backgrounds that occasionally fall down on the combatants.

Second of all, the battle system is significantly simpler than the norm for RPGs. For example, only two characters are present in battle at once: Mario and one of his various partners, whose abilities and options are more limited than Mario's, especially in the first game where they didn't even have health (they were simply stunned by the few attacks that could target them). The functions in the code used to calculate damage are also much simpler, using addition and subtraction as the main operations for this purpose; for example, if you have an attack stat of seven, and the enemy has a defense stat of five, the enemy sustains two points of damage. There's also no "speed" stat which determines who goes first; Mario always goes first, then his partner (if he has one), then all the enemies in order from front to back before repeating.


Lastly, there's much less equipment to deal with than the typical RPG. Mario's weapons—his boots (for the jump attack) and hammer—are automatically upgraded at certain points in the game (also adding new abilities for the overworld) and his partners are upgraded at certain places (increasing their attack power and health and giving them an additional combat ability). That only leaves Badges, items that are equipped using Badge Points and have various effects on Mario (or his partners in the sequel, which had Partner Badges). Some of them give him new abilities, increase his offense or defense, give him an edge against certain enemies, change visuals or sound effects or even put him at a disadvantage (to make the game more challenging).

While the first three games in the series follow different plots, there are certain shared habits. The game is broken down into a prologue and eight chapters. In the first seven chapters, Mario and his gang of "partners" rescue seven mystical stars (much like those in Super Mario RPG), which have the power to stop the bad guys. In the first two games, these stars also give Mario unique powers that require star energy that slowly regenerates in battle (both games feature ways to speed up the process; the sequel ties it to the audience). Other long-term standbys include the ability to cook items, entertaining recurring bosses and giving Peach a role of more than just a Distressed Damsel: While she is taken captive by the bad guys in the first two games, she spies on them to help Mario. Sticker Star changed a lot of this, including a more simplistic plot and a consumable item-based battle system, with Color Splash having a more refined item-based battle system and returning Peach to her spying role.

Another common note is that most games have a very witty dialogue, giving many comedic moments of leaning on the fourth wall, self-parody, and getting crap past the radar.

The series consists of:

See also Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam, a Crossover with the Mario & Luigi series.

The Paper Mario series provides examples of:

  • Ability Required to Proceed: A stable in the series, Mario would need new partners or equipment upgrades to get through whatever obstacle is blocking him.
  • Action Commands: Integral to dealing as much damage as possible to enemies or getting the most benefits from status-buffing special moves.
  • Actually Four Mooks: Careful, that single Koopatrol you just First Strike'd may turn out to be 3 Koopatrols...with a Magikoopa, for good measure. And just because there's one sole Koopatrol doesn't mean more can't appear.
  • Adult Fear: The final bosses of The Thousand Year Door and Super Paper Mario involve some hefty adult fear for Mario himself, as both force Mario into a fight to the death with Peach and Luigi respectively, the two of them being people Mario loves.
  • Anti-Grinding: The first game prevented you from getting star points (experience) from defeating enemies that are too weak for your level. The second game did the same, but always awarded at least one star point in any battle (it takes one-hundred to level up).
  • Badass Normal: Most partners aren't that much special when compared to their own species, yet they're capable of keeping up with Mario when it comes to battles.
  • Better Than a Bare Bulb: Much of the humor derives from poking fun at Mario series and other video game conventions.
  • Blocking Stops All Damage: You can Super Guard against almost anything that causes damage in battle, regardless of whether that means physical attacks, projectiles, lightning strikes, falling walls, fire or explosions. All with no harm done to Mario.
    • Of course, Super Guards have much smaller windows than normal guards (which usually just reduce damage by one), so a successful Super Guard is basically a mechanics-based Crowning Moment of Awesome. A Simplifier increases the window to just smaller than a Guard.
  • Call a Hit Point a "Smeerp": Heart Points instead of Hit Points, Flower Points instead of Magic Points, and Star Points instead of Experience Points.
  • Cast of Snowflakes: Even NPCs that look identical have completely different descriptions for Goombario/Goombella's Tattle ability.
  • Character Development: Surprising for a Mario game, but both Twink in 64 and TEC in TTYD grow as characters during (and because of) their experiences with Peach.
  • Chick Magnet: These games seem to make Mario the most attractive man around. Most of his female partners give him at least one kiss before becoming his partner.
  • Colour-Coded for Your Convenience: Peaceful Koopas are almost all wearing green shells and have visible eyes, while the Bowser-affiliated Koopas all have red shells, Sinister Shades (even in dark, poorly-lit fortresses), and studded bling in Bowser's style. The Shades n' Studs style generally indicates villainy in Koopas, with the lone exception of KP Koopa and his crew from the Glitz Pit (who has the excuse of deliberately looking tough for the hyped fighting matches).
  • Cranial Eruption: There is a recurring species in the series called the Whacka, a little blue mammal who pops his head out of the ground as you pass him by to talk about how The World Is Just Awesome. Like any good whack-a-mole Pun, his name might induce you to take a swing at him with a hammer; do it and he'll have a Cranial Eruption so big it actually falls off his head. The Whacka's Bump is one of the best healing items around, so good that there are only limited quantities of them, and you have to get each one by smashing in the Whacka's head. If you choose to talk to him, his dialogue from cheerfully talking about what a wonderful day he's having to complaining about headaches and memory loss, and eventually he won't come back. The game does not approve of your choice, You Bastard!, even if you have to cook the Bumps in recipes for 100% Completion.
  • Darker and Edgier: The second and third games have both been darker than their respective predecessors. Sticker Star reverses this trend.
  • Derivative Differentiation: These games are decidedly less similar to Final Fantasy than their Square-produced predecessor, Super Mario RPG.
  • Drop the Hammer: One of Mario's two main attacks in the series, the other being jumping.
  • Drought Level of Doom:
    • Some portions of Paper Mario can delve into this because of the importance of certain items and the limited carrying capacity, particularly in longer dungeons.
    • Averted by the game's "Pit of 100 Trials." One of the games looks like it's going to be a chore. No resurfacing to restock on items for 100 levels... until you start in and realize enemy drops practically fall out of trees and you can pretty much subsist on what they drop, saving all your items for the boss at the end.
    • Even in the GameCube one, you can trade Star Pieces for badges that let you increase enemy drops.
  • Early-Bird Cameo:
    • In the first game, Parakarry is shown delivering a letter to the Mario Bros. and he can be seen in the post office when Mario first arrives in Toad Town, but doesn't join the party until chapter 2.
    • In the second game, Vivian is fought in chapter 2, but doesn't join Mario until chapter 4. Also, when Mario gains the paper tube ability, he can enter Bobbery's house. Flavio can also be seen in Rougeport's Inn at the beginning of the game but doesn't play an important role until chapter 5.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: In the first three games, Dry Bones and their derivatives have a crippling weakness to fire, something which flies in the face of the mainline Mario series where (with the exception of Super Princess Peach) they're completely immune to it. Sticker Star and Color Splash drop this weakness.
  • Easy Levels, Hard Bosses: Many areas in the first two games are often straightforward, having relatively easy enemies and puzzles with the occasional tough one. The boss fights, on the other hand are usually the most challenging parts in the games, as they often require more complex strategies to be won. Super Paper Mario inverts this, as unlike the other games, the enemies and bosses are often very easy to defeat, while the levels' layouts can often be confusing due to the game's Flip mechanic, along with some difficult puzzles by the way. Sticker Star can be a subversion, as most of the "strategy" comes from learning the bosses' weaknesses.
  • Escape Battle Technique: The game featured a "Run Away" option outside of most scripted fights, though it had a good chance of failing and cost coins (albeit coins that could be picked up afterward).
  • Flanderization: The very aesthetic gets this treatment in Sticker Star. In the first three games, it was mostly an aesthetic choice, the design resembling more of drawings in a storybook than paper figurines (with Thousand Year Door taking advantage of it with the "curses"). In Sticker Star, the very characters acknowledge they're made of paper, and it's mentioned very often, something that the previous games never did. The environment also becomes more paper-like and looking more like diorama pieces following this change.
  • Flipping Helpless: Several enemies can be flipped on their backs, which reduces their defense to zero. The most common are the Koopas and their extended family, but other enemy trees include Clefts, Spinies, and Buzzy Beetles, some of which require a Pow Block or Quake Smash to flip.
    • Shady Koopas are actually an inversion, since they become more powerful while flipped on their backs.
  • Game Gourmet: From the first game to Super, starting with basic items like berries, apples, lemons, cake mix, coconuts, and of course, mushrooms. Each game has a cook who can combine items together to make more complex things like spaghetti, soup, and cakes (or even non-food items such as Dizzy Dials and Sleepy Sheep).
  • Going Through the Motions: It soon becomes obvious that everyone's animations are rather limited. For example, every time Mario strikes up a conversation, he thrusts his arm out as if saluting the person he's addressing.
  • Goomba Stomp: One of Mario's two main attacks in the series, the other being a hammer.
  • Ground Pound: An unlockable ability in each game, though in the first and second games, it's called a Spin Jump.
  • Ground Punch: The Quake Hammer move consists of Mario smashing the ground with his hammer hard enough to shake the entire stage.
  • Hub World: All games except the fourth have one that connects to each world in each game. Sticker Star uses a world map instead.
  • Hurt Foot Hop: When you attempt to jump on a spiked enemy without the Spike Shield badge, Mario will hop while clutching his foot.
  • Idle Animation: The characters tend to nod off if you leave the controls unattended for a few minutes.
  • Item Amplifier: In the first and second game, the Badges "Double Dip" and "Triple Dip" allow Mario to use 2 items or 3 items per turn, respectively.
  • Limit Break: The first and second games give Mario these kinds of moves called "special moves" which are powered by Star Power and are unlocked over the course of the game.
  • Magnetic Hero: Mario, who attracts many partners over the course of the first three games. He also gets Kersti on his side in Sticker Star and Huey in Color Splash.
  • Mana Potion: Syrups and Jammin' Jelly restore Flower Points.
  • Monster of the Week: Each chapter of every game has Mario going against whoever is in possession of the MacGuffin for the respective level.
  • Mythology Gag: Each game's first chapter occurs in a grassland and in every game except Super Paper Mario, the first boss is fought in a castle or fortress. (You know, just like the original Super Mario Bros.).
  • No Fourth Wall: Listing the number of ways the fourth wall is broken would take too long.
  • No Hero Discount: In this game and all the sequels. You're a worldwide hero needed to save the kingdom/world/multiverse/whatever and you still need to pay for inns, items, and fortunetelling. At least you don't pay for inns in the first game, but considering Mario's more famous in the Mushroom Kingdom than in Rogueport or Flipside, it's not quite enough slack.
  • Non-Standard Game Over: Every game has some way of saying that the game ended early. The original game has the first Bowser fight, the second had the diary on the train and a Deal with the Devil, if you accept the Shadow Queen's offer, and the third has the beginning dialogue options before you even start the game (just say you don't feel like saving the world), and another if you accept Dimentio's offer. The fourth is the first to break the tradition.
  • Parallel Conflict Sequence: The Final Battle consists of Mario and his partners facing-off against Bowser while Peach and Twink briefly fight Kammy Koopa.
  • The Pin Is Mightier Than the Sword: Badges, which enhance Mario's (and his partners') abilities.
  • Powers as Programs: The badge system. Each one has an effect you can get simply by wearing it, with abilities ranging from allowing you to stomp spiked enemies without getting hit, to making you get more Star Power when you Appeal, to letting you use two or three items in one turn, to more silly things like changing your outfit to resemble Luigi, Wario, or Waluigi.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: Mario puts one together in the first two games, accepting a bunch of complete strangers of all races during his travels. The third game has him gather Peach, Bowser, Luigi, and a group of connected beings who somewhat qualify as this. The fourth game averts this; it's just Mario and Kersti all the way through.
  • Recurring Element:
    • Parakarry, a partner in the first game, shows up or is referenced in all Paper Mario games.
    • All six games have a section where the player participates in a game show; the first has the 64th Trivia Quiz-Off in the chapter 5 Peach intermission as well as Chuck Quizmo's optional quizzes, TTYD has the 65th Super Fun Quirk Quiz and 66th Annual Quirk Quiz, SPM has the 66th Annual "That's My Merlee!" show, SS and CS have Snifit or Whiffit, and TOK has Shy Guys Finish Last.
  • Recurring Boss: Every single game has had AT LEAST one boss fight with a Blooper.
  • Rule of Seven: The number of Plot Coupons in the first and second games. In Super Paper Mario there are eight, but you get the first one before gaining control and have to track down the other seven.
  • Running Gag: In each game, a character delivers an incredibly long story that has Mario falling asleep to it.
  • Scenery Porn: Each game has it, getting better as the series progresses.
  • Sequel Escalation: The first game involved saving the Mushroom Kingdom. The second game involved a Princess Peach kidnapping that led to Mario taking on a secret society and then saving the world from the demon they meant to unleash. The third game involved saving The Multiverse from an Omnicidal Maniac and his Artifact of Doom, as explained in the very opening moments of the game. The fourth game, however, brought it back to saving the Mushroom Kingdom.
  • Sizable Snowflakes: Every game featuring snowy regions feature these.
  • Smart Animal, Average Human: The Paper Mario games usually have one wise and all-knowing creature that teams up with the human Mario. There's Goombario, Goombella, and Tippi/Tiptron.
  • Something Completely Different: Chapter 6 seems to stand out from the others in some way. The first game had it take place in a world that is separated from the Mushroom Kingdom. The second games' Chapter 6 took place on a train where various mysteries had to be solved. The third game's Chapter 6 took place in a world where you have to fight through 100 opponents one at a time to complete it. But that was cut short by an Apocalypse Wow. In the fourth game, the sixth world is actually the final world and is also the shortest.
  • Storybook Opening: All four games so far have opened this way, each of them telling the Backstory of important places or objects in the game. Sticker Star takes it Up to Eleven, where the storybook continues after each boss. Interestingly enough, the section after the fourth boss is narrated by the boss posthumously. It's unknown whether or not he narrated the rest of the book, though.
  • Suspicious Videogame Generosity: If a dungeon ever contains a save block and a healing block (or item) right next to each other, and it's NOT the very beginning of a dungeon, it's a good chance the next room will contain the boss. Subverted in the second game as it has multiple save blocks before a boss.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Almost all of the partners from The Thousand Year Door are rehashes of the gang from the original with improved abilities and more complex character designs. Goombella, Koops, and Bobbery are direct stand-ins for Goombario, Kooper, and Bombette, while the other members offer either similar powers (Vivian replicates Lady Bow's invisibility) or ability re-combinations (the Yoshi hatchling mixes a weaker version of Lakilester's Power-Up Mount abilities with Parakarry's gap-crossing abilities).
  • This Looks Like a Job for Aquaman: In games where Mario has partners, many of them are tailor-made to work with specific obstacles or environments. Depending on who you choose to bring with you in a boss battle, it may be easy or hard.
    • The gap-crossing characters, Parakarry and the Yoshi hatchling, need gaps to cross. Their games compensate for this limited use by giving Parakarry a subquest of delivering letters and making Yoshi a Power-Up Mount that can boost Mario's speed in the field.
    • Bow and Vivian make Mario invisible, which has limited gameplay uses, unless you're trying to evade enemies in a particularly complicated way.
    • Sushie in the first game has no use except to allow Mario to swim by entering the water at specific docks and to be especially powerful against fire enemies (she joins the heroes right before they enter a volcano). Bombette is a subverted example, since while she can only explode, that explosion also double as an attack.
    • Madame Flurrie from The Thousand-Year Door can use her wind powers to reveal certain secrets and make enemies dizzy.
    • The Pixls from Super Paper Mario are all about this. They're literally living tools for performing specific tasks. Several of them replicate specific Thousand Year Door abilities, such as Slim replacing Mario's paperizing to fit through slim spaces or Fleep providing Madame Flurrie's powers.
      • Dottie's job is to make the characters small, allowing them to fit through tiny spaces and little red doors.
      • Piccolo's job is to heal status ailments and destroy certain specific obstacles. (She can also put the Underchomp to sleep).
  • Throwing Your Sword Always Works: In most games, Mario gets a badge that allows him to toss his hammer at enemies. It's a go-to early on for enemies that are spiky (therefore immune to a Goomba Stomp if you don't have the Spike Shield badge) and can fly (so can't be reached with the hammer in melee) before more powerful attacks are made available.
  • Toilet Teleportation: Mario can use toilets as a means of warping around. This is necessary at one point in The Thousand-Year Door where Mario is chased into a restroom and needs to send himself down the toilet.
  • Uniformity Exception: All the party members who are members of the various mook races Mario usually encounters on his adventures (or, in one case, a baby Yoshi) all have some sort of iconic feature that'll allow one to tell who they are, like Goombario's blue hat, Goombella's Adventurer Archaeologist apparel (and the fact that she's pink), Watt's dummy, Bombette's ponytail-like fuse, Yoshi's underwear, etc.
  • We Cannot Go On Without You: If Mario falls in battle, the game ends. If any of the partners fall, it doesn't, and they can be revived afterwards or during battle. However, all damage will go towards Mario and if there are Life Shrooms they will be used on your partner first.
  • You Don't Look Like You: Justified example. As Old Wonky explains in the second game, Chet Rippo and the "Merl" family change drastically in appearance between games because they are actually different people who are assigned names according to their roles.

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